A GP who failed to recognise that a new mother was suffering from a potentially fatal inflammation of her uterus was yesterday found guilty of poor professional performance.
The disciplinary hearing at the Medical Council in Dublin found that Dr Saleem Sharif, aged 57, from Ballyphehane, Cork, failed to carry out an examination of Alison Hunter Hickey, or arrange for investigations when Ms Hickey visited him at the GP Now Clinic in Sandyford, Dublin, on October 2014, where he was working as a locum GP.
Legal counsel for the Medical Council, Eoghan O’Sullivan, said yesterday that Dr Sharif displayed a “very worrying” lack of clinical judgement.
On October 6, 2014, Ms Hickey, aged 47, gave birth to twin boys by emergency caesarean. On October 28, she became unwell, experiencing flu-like symptoms, shivering, a high temperature, and abdominal pain.
Ms Hickey attended the GP Now Clinic in Sandyford, where she explained her symptoms to Dr Sharif. However, he conducted no physical examination, nor did he ordered any tests or take a complete medical history.
“He said it was probably a urinary tract infection, and asked was I allergic to penicillin. I said no. That was it. It was a very short consultation,” Ms Hickey told the inquiry on Monday.
“There were very few questions asked. There was very little interaction. When I got back in the car, my sister-in-law actually said, ‘That was very quick’.”
But the following day, Ms Hickey’s symptoms worsened, and she was rushed to the Rotunda hospital.
There, she was diagnosed with endometritis, or an inflammation of the uterine lining. If left untreated, endometritis can lead to sepsis and organ failure. Endometritis is the most likely cause of infection in post-partum women, especially for those who have given birth by caesarean section.
Ms Hickey made a full recovery, and was discharged from hospital on 1 November 2014.
Legal counsel Mr O’Sullivan said: “To jump to that conclusion [of a UTI] in the absence of a history review, the absence of an examination of investigations, displays a very worrying lack of clinical judgement. Although it was a brief consultation, Dr Sharif displayed various errors in clinical judgement at each stage.”
Mr O’Sullivan said Dr Sharif was previously the subject of a disciplinary inquiry in April 2011. Then, he was found guilty of poor professional performance in relation to a Cork-based patient with a history of cardiac problems, who had collapsed at home in May 2009.
Legal counsel for Dr Sharif, Simon Mills, said no evidence suggests Ms Hickey’s condition was worsened by anything that the GP did.
Mr Mills said the 2011 inquiry “actually falls into a quite different category of conduct”.
“There was no question over the quality of the exam carried out in the 2011 inquiry,” he said.
Dr Sharif, originally trained in Pakistan, has his own private practice in Ballyphehane, Co Cork.
On Monday, Dr Sharif, through his legal counsel, admitted he failed to take an adequate medical history, failed to carry out any appropriate examination and failed to arrange for initial relevant investigations when Ms Hickey visited him. He also admitted that he failed to arrange for a follow-up appointment with her.
Sanctions against Dr Sharif will be decided upon at a later date.
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